Wills aren’t helpful if they cannot be found. When you pass away, you will rely on the person you nominate as your executor to carry out the wishes in your will. Because of this, you may want to plan where you store your will so it is easily accessible to him or her. A number of options exist when it comes to storing wills that can help ensure those who need access to it can easily obtain the most recent copy.
Ultimately, the individuals you know, like, and trust the most should know where your will is stored. More importantly, you should tell them when you update your will so probate courts do not administer previous versions. Remember, if the people who need your will cannot locate it, probate court cannot consider your desires.
Safe Deposit Boxes
You may decide to store your will in a safe deposit box. This can lead to both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage of a safe deposit box is that it offers protection of the document. Safe deposit boxes may not only protect the will from being stolen but also may protect the document from fires in some circumstances. A safe deposit box can also create a one-stop-shop for all important family documents. Because of this, many families store their wills in safe deposit boxes.
Downsides of Safe Deposit Boxes
Safe deposit boxes are not perfect locations for storing estate planning documents. A safe deposit box creates a barrier for family members to gain access to documents. A safe deposit key or combination is only as good as those who have access to it. If a will or other estate planning document is in a safe deposit box, a court order may be required to open it. Many times, people create estate plans in order to reduce the amount of necessary court orders. This can, in fact, increase the number of necessary court orders.
A safe deposit box serves as a secure but imperfect location for estate planning documents. If someone desires to place their documents in a safe deposit box, they should ensure that family members, potential executors, and attorneys have access to the box to avoid delays.
After drafting your estate plan, you may ask your attorney to store your will with their office. Law firms often have their own rules regarding storing client documents. Additionally, law firms must comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct when storing client documents. Because of this, their rules may involve the number of years of storage and requirements about how they store documents.
Benefits of Storing with Your Lawyer
Naturally, storing estate planning documents with your attorney contains a number of advantages. Lawyers can immediately begin to prepare to open the estate for the deceased. They also must act on behalf of your desires when it comes to disclosing documents and releasing information. Moreover, your lawyer likely knows the probate process and the necessities in order to ensure a speedy result when it comes to court cases.
The Downside of Storing a Will with Your Lawyer
Simply storing your documents with your attorney may not be perfect. Your attorney may not be the first person to discover that you passed away. In some instances, families may not know who did your estate plan. Because of this, they may not quickly notify the lawyer until it is too late. In other instances, you may employ multiple lawyers. Because of this, your most recent lawyer may not know of your passing, and a previous one may try to admit a previously revoked will.
If you decide to have your attorney store your estate plan, make sure your family knows to contact your lawyer when you pass away. Even then, your family may choose to keep your lawyer out of the loop if your desires conflict with what they may receive under a previous will or through the default laws in Ohio. Because of this, it is smart to notify individuals that you trust who your lawyer is so they can reach out to them when you pass away.
Storing with the Proposed Executor
Storing a will with your proposed executor helps ensure that your executor possesses the will when you pass away. However, it is not a perfect solution. In fact, it may create an additional layer of headaches depending on when you need the documents. Because of this, the negatives may outweigh the positives when it comes to storing it with a proposed executor.
Proposed executors are human. Because of this, they may make mistakes. Without being appointed by the court, a proposed executor does not owe a duty to the individual who executed the will. Because of this, an executor may be prone to misplacing this document during a time of need for the deceased.
Even if the proposed executor maintains the will safely, other issues may arise. An executor may move out of state and therefore be unable to act as executor once you pass away. A proposed executor may pass away before you, leaving your estate plan to the protection of whoever handles the executor’s estate. In fact, even if your executor stores the document in a safe deposit box, the same complications that arise when you pass away may arise with another layer of complexity.
Storing Wills With Probate Court
Perhaps the best place to store your will is where it will ultimately be administered. Many probate courts in Ohio offer the opportunity to hold on to your will for safekeeping. These courts often refer to these services as a will deposit.
How to Store Wills with Probate Court
A will deposit requires a filing fee with the court. However, if you pay it, you may store the original copy of your will with probate court. Courts then issue Certificates of Deposit for your records. If you choose to amend or change your will, you may remove it once courts verify your identity.
Once the probate court receives proof of death, the probate court releases the information to the person nominated as executor in the will. This can help ensure the will is sent to the person who will ultimately file the application to probate the will.
Advantages of Storing with Probate Court
Another advantage of storing a will with probate court lies in the presumption stored wills have in probate court. Probate courts inspect wills submitted for deposit to ensure they remain compliant with Ohio law. This means, probate courts review wills to see if they apply with legal rules. As a result, in many instances, courts will presume wills deposited in court as admissible. This can reduce the chance of a will contest down the road.
As long as the person depositing the will remains a resident of the county, one should seriously consider depositing a will with probate court. The only downside to this is that probate courts only admit wills and not other estate planning documents. This means, you may end up splitting your estate plans between your wills, powers of attorney and living wills.